IN THE INDIANA TAX COURT _____________________________________________________________________

TOWN OF ST. JOHN, et al.,                                          )
                                                                               )
    Petitioners,                                                               )
                                                                               )
    v.                                                                         )   Cause No. 49T10-9309-TA-70
                                                                               )
DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL                                                            )
GOVERNMENT FINANCE,
                                                           
                                                 
                                                                      
                                      See footnote                       )
                                                                               )
    Respondent.                                                                )    
_____________________________________________________________________

ORDER AND JUDGMENT ENTRY


NOT FOR PUBLICATION
April 8, 2002


FISHER, J.
The Respondent, the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) in this case requests that: 1) the Court order the Lake County Assessor to request appropriation of funds to pay bills for services rendered by Arthur Andersen LLP for its work on the Lake County reassessment or, in the alternative, 2) the Court order the Lake County Auditor to pay the bills at issue. In addition, the DLGF asks that the Lake County Auditor, Assessor, Commissioners, and Council be joined as parties in this case. The DLGF makes these requests so that it may meet the Indiana Tax Court’s deadline for statewide general reassessment.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The present litigation is yet another chapter in the nearly nine-year legal battle challenging Indiana’s property tax system. See footnote The current controversy involves this Court’s May 31, 2000, order that all real property in Indiana be assessed “using constitutional regulations as of March 1, 2002.” Town of St. John v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 729 N.E.2d 242, 246 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2000) (St. John VI). In order to comply with this order, on November 27, 2001, the State Board of Tax Commissioners (State Board) contracted with Arthur Andersen LLP to perform the reassessment of Lake County. The DLGF received an invoice for services from Arthur Andersen LLP that was dated January 7, 2002. On January 8, 2002, Jon Laramore, the Commissioner of the DLGF, sent the invoice, an accounts payable voucher, and a letter to the Lake County Auditor requesting that the County pay for services rendered by Arthur Andersen LLP. In addition, Mr. Laramore sent a letter to the Lake County Auditor and Assessor requesting that, if necessary, an appropriation be made. Thereafter, the Lake County Assessor requested the appropriation. On February 7, 2002, the Lake County Assessor asked that the Lake County Council remove the appropriation request from the meeting agenda. To date, Lake County has not paid Arthur Andersen LLP.
    On February 8, 2002, the DLGF filed a motion to join the Lake County Auditor, Lake County Assessor, Lake County Commissioners, and the Lake County Council in this case. On February 22, 2002, the DLGF filed a motion for prompt hearing and for an order regarding the Lake County reassessment. A hearing was held in this matter on March 4, 2002. Additional facts will be supplied as needed.
ANALYSIS, OPINION & ORDER
I. Payment of Bills for Reassessment


In order to comply with the Court’s deadline for statewide general reassessment, the DLGF argues that this Court should either order the Lake County Assessor to request appropriation of funds to pay bills due for services rendered for the reassessment of Lake County or, in the alternative, order the Lake County Auditor to pay the bills at issue. As discussed below, due to new legislation signed into law by the Governor on March 27 and 28, 2002, the Court need not grant the DLGF’s request. See H.E.A. 1088, § 2, 112th Gen. Assem., Second Reg. Sess. (Ind. 2002) (amending Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32); H.E.A. 1196, § 8, 112th Gen. Assem., Second Reg. Sess. (Ind. 2002) (amending Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32).
Specifically, under the new legislation that amends Indiana Code Section 6-1.1-4-32, the DLGF is required to “select and contract with a certified public accounting firm with expertise in the appraisal of real property to appraise property for the general reassessment of real property in a qualifying county See footnote to be completed for the March 1, 2002, assessment date.” Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32(e)). The township assessor in a qualifying county may not appraise or have property appraised in that county for the March 1, 2002 general reassessment. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32(d). The only duty of the township or county assessors is to provide information or support to the DLGF or the contractor that it selects for the general reassessment. Id. The qualifying county is required to pay the cost of the contract without appropriation from the county property reassessment fund. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32(i).
Once the contractor has gone through an approval and certification process, it may submit a bill to the auditor of the qualifying county for payment. Id. The approval and certification conclusively resolves the merits of the claim. Id. The auditor submits the contractor’s claim to the county executive who “shall allow the claim, in full, as approved by the [DLGF] without further examination of the merits of the claim.” Id. Once the claim is allowed “by the county executive, the county auditor shall immediately issue a warrant or check for the full amount of the claim approved by the [DLGF].” Id. The determination and payment of a claim that complies with the above stated procedures “is not subject to remonstrance and appeal.” Id.
If the county auditor fails to issue a warrant or check to the contractor at the first opportunity that the auditor is legally permitted to do so, the contractor may notify the DLGF. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32(u)(1)(D). The DLGF shall then provide the State Treasurer with the DLGF’s approval of the bill. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32(v)(2). Thereafter, the State Treasurer “shall pay the contractor the amount of the bill approved by the [DLGF] from money in the possession of the state that would otherwise be available for distribution to the qualifying county.” Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32(w). The State Treasurer will then “withhold from the part attributable to the county of the next distribution to the county treasurer . . . the amount of any payment made by the treasurer of state to the contractor.” Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32(x).     
Here, the DLGF selected and contracted with Arthur Andersen LLP to perform the Lake County general reassessment. The Commissioner of the DLGF has sent written requests to both the Lake County Auditor and Assessor requesting that they pay the invoices from Arthur Andersen LLP for services rendered. (State’s Ex. E, F, G.) To date, these bills have not been paid. See footnote Regardless of any resistance from Lake County, it is clear that the new legislation provides the DLGF with the means to pay Arthur Andersen LLP for its services and to continue its work in order to complete the Lake County reassessment. See I.C. § 6-1.1-4-32. If Lake County continues to refuse to pay the Arthur Andersen LLP bill, the DLGF can have the bill paid by the State Treasurer. See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32(w). Consequently, the Court need not grant the DLGF’s motion to order appropriation by the Lake County Assessor or payment by the Lake County Auditor.
The Court recognizes that the future of Arthur Andersen LLP is unknown at this time. Nonetheless, the Court reminds the DLGF of the Court’s May 31, 2000, Order that “real property in Indiana must be reassessed using constitutional regulations as of March 1, 2002.” St. John VI, 729 N.E.2d at 246. The Court unequivocally stated that “[t]his deadline is firm. It is not a mere ‘goal’ . . . to be accomplished in the future." Id. The Court also clearly required that local assessing officials do their part in complying with the order. The Court stated that it was “confident that . . . with a determination by assessing officials to do the job required--these officials will be able and ready to do their jobs in a timely manner with accuracy, care, precision and pride.” Id. at 247. The Court’s order is unambiguous. Therefore, despite the uncertainty about the future of Arthur Andersen LLP, the DLGF must decide how it will accomplish the Lake County reassessment in accordance with this Court’s May 31, 2000, Order. This Court DENIES the DLGF’s motion to order appropriation by the Lake County Assessor or payment by the Lake County Auditor.
II. Joinder of Parties

The DLGF also argues that Peter Benjamin, the Lake County Auditor; Paul Karras, the Lake County Assessor; Rudolph Clay, Gerry Scheub, and Frances DuPey, the Lake County Commissioners; Bernadette Costa, Troy Montgomery, William A. Smith, Tom O’Donnell, Joel G. Markovich, See footnote Don Potrebic, and Larry Blanchard, the Lake County Council (collectively referred to as Lake County Officials) should be joined as parties in this case.See footnote The DLGF posits that these Lake County Officials should be joined because they have threatened litigationSee footnote that could potentially result in the DLGF being placed under conflicting legal obligations. More specifically, the DLGF asserts that any litigation, which might be brought in a different forum, could result in a judgment that conflicts with the DLGF’s obligation to complete the reassessment for the March 1, 2002 deadline.
The DLGF served summonses on the Lake County Officials in conjunction with filing its motion to join them as parties.See footnote None of the Lake County Officials has filed any response to the DLGF’s motion to join or summonses.See footnote The Court hereby ORDERS the Lake County Officials joined as parties.
CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES the DLGF’s Motion for Order Regarding Lake County Assessment and GRANTS the DLGF’s Motion to Join Parties.





                                __________________________
Thomas G. Fisher, Judge
                            Indiana Tax Court

Distribution:

Representing Petitioners:

Thomas M. Atherton
KATZ & KORIN, P.C.
10 West Market Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Kenneth J. Falk
Indiana Civil Liberties Union
1031 E. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202

Richard A. Waples
Attorney at Law
410 North Audubon Road
Indianapolis, IN 46219

James K. Gilday
WOOD TUOHY GLEASON MERCER
& HERRIN
3400 Bank One Center Tower
Indianapolis, IN 46204-5134

Representing Respondent:

Steve Carter
Attorney General of Indiana
By: Ted J. Holaday
Doug Webber
Terry G. Duga
Deputy Attorneys General
Indiana Government Center South, Fifth Floor
402 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2770

Representing Assessor:
Robert W. Smith
Paula E. Neff
Fred M. Cuppy
9191 Broadway
Merrillville, IN 46410

Representing Lake County Auditor:
John Robert Cantrell
2149 U.S. Hwy. 41
Schererville, IN 46375

Representing Lake County Board of Commissioners:
John S. Dull
2293 N. Main St.
Crown Point, IN 46307

Representing Lake County Council:
Gerald M. Bishop
2115 West Lincoln Highway
Merrillville, IN 46410


Footnote: The State Board of Tax Commissioners (State Board) was originally the Respondent in this appeal. However, the legislature abolished the State Board as of December 31, 2001. P.L. 198-2001, § 119(b)(2). Effective January 1, 2002, the legislature created the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF), Ind. Code § 6-1.1-30-1.1 (West Supp. 2001)(eff. 1-1-02); P.L. 198-2001, § 66, and the Indiana Board of Tax Review (Indiana Board). Ind. Code § 6-1.5-1-3 (West Supp. 2001)(eff. 1-1-02); P.L. 198-2001, § 95. Pursuant to Indiana Code Section 6-1.5-5-8, the DLGF is substituted for the State Board in appeals from final determinations of the State Board that were issued before January 1, 2002. Ind. Code § 6-1.5-5-8 (West Supp. 2001)(eff. 1-1-02); P.L. 198-2001, § 95. Moreover, the law in effect prior to January 1, 2002 applies to these appeals. Ind. Code § 6-1.5-5-8 (West Supp. 2001)(eff. 1-1-02); P.L. 198-2001, §§ 95, 117. Although the DLGF has been substituted as the Respondent, this Court will still reference the State Board throughout this opinion.

Footnote: This battle has resulted in a multitude of published opinions including: Bielski v. Zorn, 627 N.E.2d 880 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1994); Town of St. John v. State Bd of Tax Comm’rs, 665 N.E.2d 965 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1996) (St. John I); Boehm v. Town of St. John, 675 N.E.2d 318 (Ind. 1996) (St. John II); Town of St. John v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 690 N.E.2d 370 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1997) (St. John III); Town of St. John v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 691 N.E.2d 1387 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998) (St. John IV); Town of St. John v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 698 N.E.2d 399 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998) (order of clarification of St. John IV); Town of St. John v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 695 N.E.2d 123 (Ind. 1998) (Supreme Court’s grant of review of St. John III & IV); State Board of Tax Comm’rs v. Town of St. John, 702 N.E.2d 1034 (Ind. 1998) (St. John V); Town of St. John v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 729 N.E.2d 242 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2000) (St. John VI); Town of St. John v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 730 N.E.2d 240 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2000) (St. John VII); State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs v. Town of St. John, 751 N.E.2d 657 (Ind. 2001) (St. John VIII).


Footnote: A “qualifying county” is defined as “a county having a population of more than four hundred thousand (400,000) but less than seven hundred thousand (700,000).” Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-32(c). Lake County does not appear to challenge that it is a qualifying county. Nonetheless, the 1990 census indicates that there were 475,594 people in Lake County. (State’s Ex. J.)

    

Footnote: The County Auditor and Assessor have not provided this Court with any reason for their refusal to pay the bills for services already rendered by Arthur Andersen LLP.


Footnote: In the Court’s February 18, 2002, Order, Joel G. Markovich was substituted for John C. Aguilera pursuant to the DLGF’s Motion to Substitute Party for the purposes of its Motion to Join.

Footnote: The DLGF asserts that the Lake County Auditor and Assessor should be joined because their refusal to pay the Arthur Andersen LLP bill places the Court’s deadline to assess all property in Indiana as of March 1, 2002 in jeopardy. (Resp’t Motion to Join at 5.) The DLGF contends that the Lake County Council and Commissioners should be joined because they are essential participants in the payment process. (Resp’t Motion to Join at 5.) The Court no longer need address these arguments as the DLGF now has the power to pay Arthur Andersen LLP or another contractor via the State Treasurer pursuant to Indiana Code Section 6-1.1-4-32. See Part I infra of this Order.


Footnote: The DLGF asserts that the Lake County Officials have threatened litigation if the DLGF has the State Treasurer pay Arthur Anderson LLP and then withhold the amount paid from money that would otherwise be available for distribution to the county treasurer. DLGF Monthly Report 22 at 2. See also Ind. Code §§ 6-1.1-4-32(w) & (x).


Footnote: The Court notes that pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 4(A) “[t]he court acquires jurisdiction over a party or person who under these rules commences or joins in the action, is served with summons or enters an appearance, or who is subjected to the power of the count under any other law.” Ind. Trial Rule 4(A) (emphasis added).


Footnote: The Lake County Officials also have not responded to the DLGF’s Motion for Order Regarding Lake County Assessment.